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Reedies Descend on Portland

By Alexander Blum '13 on April 17, 2012 10:58 AM

Almost 200 Reed students, alumni, professors, and staff volunteered their time for the Centennial Day of Service on Saturday, restoring native habitat in Oaks Bottom, building a toolshed for a day-labor community center, and repairing books for low-income children.

The event, organized by SEEDS (Students for Education, Empowerment, and Direct Service), celebrated Reed's tradition of community service with a battery of projects throughout Portland that left a positive mark on the city—and on the participants.

SEEDS earned glowing reviews from students. Jennifer Caamano '12, who has volunteered with SEEDS all four of her years at Reed and now works as an intern with the Lane After-School Education with Reed (LASER) program, enthused that "it's super easy to just hop in a van and do service projects... It makes it really accessible." Shelly Skolfield '14, who reported having worked with SEEDS for "seven minutes," was no less enthusiastic. "It seems like it's going to be awesome," she said.

The day began with a breakfast speech by community organizer Kathleen Saadat '74, who emphasized Reedies' moral obligation to make the world a better place. "When you get a lot from the world," she said, "you have an obligation to give back. The more you get, the more you have an obligation to give back." She drove home the special obligation Reedies in particular have, given their unique training, telling the crowd, "You've got a lot." She encouraged Reedies to "think about how you will relate to people who are not like you," reminding volunteers that in their service, "you're going to teach and you're going to learn... If you only do one, you've missed the boat."

Francisco Aguirre, an immigrant from El Salvador and an organizer for Voz Workers' Rights Education Project, a group that advocates for day laborers, explained his goal to "learn from each other about justice and equality for all," and praised the volunteers' efforts. "You're a big help," he said, "because you're helping us to succeed our dream to support the community."

Specific projects of the day included working with Sue Thomas '73 at the Portland Parks and Recreation Environmental Education Program at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge; with Emese Ilyes '08 at Project Grow, which empowers adults with developmental disabilities through art, farming and other meaningful work; collecting and restoring books with the Children's Book Bank, which strives to improve the literacy skills of low-income children by giving them books of their own before they reach kindergarten; and building a toolshed with Voz Worker's Rights Project.